Cure For Alzheimer’s Found? New Ultrasound Therapy Fully Restores Memory Function

Alap Naik Desai - Author

Mar. 18 2015, Updated 10:08 a.m. ET

Researchers in Australia have devised a treatment that effectively reverses the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

A team from the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at the University of Queensland has come up with a non-invasive therapy based on ultrasound technology that essentially de-plaques our brain, thereby allowing neurons and their network of connections to work better. The ultrasound based therapy clears the brain of neuro-toxic amyloid plaques.

The brain equivalent of the common plaque found in our unclean teeth, are structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. Alzheimer’s disease is a result of a build-up of two types of lesions – amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

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Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons and end up as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules. Simply put, these are a highly sticky forms of protein that easily clump together and form brain-plaque. Neurofibrillary tangles are quite similar, but are found inside the neurons of the brain, and they’re caused by defective tau proteins that clump up into a thick, insoluble mass. This mass eventually results in tiny filaments called microtubules to get all twisted. Neurofibrillary tangles disrupt the transportation of essential materials such as nutrients and organelles, thereby depriving the brain and causing it to deteriorate.

Even though Alzheimer’s disease affects about 50 million people worldwide, there still hasn’t been a single vaccine that can either arrest or successfully reverse the neurodegenerative disease. However, the team, for the first time, has been able to develop a technique to tackle at least one of the reasons people suffer from Alzheimer’s – by clearing the amyloid plaques.

The team used focused therapeutic ultrasound, which beams sound waves into the brain tissue, without opening by the skull. Essentially, these sound waves oscillate at a very high frequency, thereby gently opening the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in.

Microglial cells are essentially the body’s waste-removal cells. Once these cells get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to scrub out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored. The ultrasound therapy offers these cells a window of a few hours to do their job, before the barrier has a chance to re-erect.

The results have been astounding. The team claims that 75 percent of the participants had their memory functions fully restored, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. However, these participants were lab-mice.

With human trials scheduled for 2017, we could soon have a powerful technique not just to combat, but win over Alzheimer’s disease. Or else, we still have beer!

[Image Credit | Medical News Today]


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